While a CV and covering letter followed up with an interview remains the traditional way to find the right candidates for a position, it seems that in many cases, it is not the best route to successful recruitment. This is because in face to face interviews, bias can play a huge part in poor decision making, even when hiring managers imagine they have been as fair and objective as possible.
Studies have shown that one of the largest factors contributing to whether a candidate is selected for a job or not ultimately comes down to whether the interviewer feels they will fit into the environment. Although this is undeniably important, when it is favoured over aptitude, costly mistakes can be made that could be avoided. Here are three commonly identified types of bias at the interview stage.
This is a potentially difficult one, because instinct clearly plays a very important part in the interview process. Many hiring managers will have at least one story about regretting letting the candidate they really wanted go in favour of the someone who looked better on paper, but failed to have the some of the other traits – such as people skills, trustworthiness or empathy – that may have also been an unspoken requirement of the job. Instinct, however, is ultimately considered to be ruled by the emotions, so unless you know your instincts are consistently excellent, aptitude, experience and qualifications are the only truly fair way to judge a candidate’s suitability.
2) Confirmation Bias
This describes our ability as people to create a picture in our minds of the qualities or flaws we perceive a person to have on paper, before we have met them, and to judge them through the filter of our preconceptions. In other words, the interviewer has ultimately made the decision before they meet the candidate, and new information will not shift that original idea.
3) Affective Heuristic (or superficial appraisal of the candidate)
This is when an interviewer is prejudiced –either favourably of unfavourably – towards the candidate, on the basis of ultimately shallow evaluations, such as age, attractiveness, race or weight. This is the type of bias that the most work has been done to eradicate in recent decades, yet there is no doubt it still occurs despite clear guidelines for employers, particularly those in the public sector.
So how can bias best be avoided? Firstly, having a requirement that interviewers must explain and document their decision making processes helps the interviewer to remember the importance of integrity in arriving at the decision, and also helps him or her to analyse their choices more rigorously. Secondly, avoiding rushing the recruitment process is one of the essential components of effective hiring. Always thoroughly review all the available evidence of the candidate’s suitability, both before and after interview. Finally, having an absolutely watertight scoring system for both the application and interview process also helps the process of decision making far more objective, with a core list of key criteria and outcomes that must be met. While nothing is absolutely failsafe in recruitment, when these standards are met and some kind of aptitude or personality testing is also undertaken, success and fairness are a lot more achievable.